If Cleveland Clinic cares about wellness, they'll hire ONLY smokers

If the Cleveland Clinic is going to treat the act of smoking as an illness or a habit related to health that is undesirable and in need of medical (physical or mental) attention, to the extent that the Clinic offers smoking cessation methods to its current employees who smoke, then they should be consistent in their approach to recruiting employees who may otherwise be qualified, except for the fact that they smoke.

What am I talking about?

Read this statement:

Wellness is a somewhat intangible concept, which makes selling it to employees a daunting task. For that reason, companies toss out incentives that workers understand – such as cash and discounted health care premiums – to incite workers to get healthier.

Yet if businesses are betting on wellness incentives to act as a game-changer in the health care cost area, analysts say organizations must be creative and understand how workers define wellness and good health.

The article that follows these two paragraphs, from the July issue of Employee Benefit News (not yet online but should be available as a pdf eventually from that website), doesn’t say anything about not hiring people who smoke, or aren’t well. It explains how to be where the client – in this case, the employee (and I’m extending it to potential, qualified employee) – is.

And this is the number one cardinal rule of dealing with these cross-over issues that involve physical and mental well-being: you must meet the person where they are, not force them to come to what you want.

How does this apply to the Clinic?

If the Clinic’s goal truly is wellness – that is, the individual’s wellness (as opposed to the wellness of the Clinic’s bottom line, which, yesterday, the new Chief Wellness Officer for the Clinic, Dr. Michael Roizen, said on WCPN’s Sound of Ideas was not the issue) – then refusing to hire anyone who smokes, while still allowing employees who do smoke to remain on staff, fails miserably in addressing an individual’s health.

Those folks will continue to smoke – they just won’t be employed by the Clinic.

If the Clinic really wanted to impact wellness, as well as hire qualified individuals, they’d actually put smokers at the top of the list for new hires. And then offer them incentives, as described in the Benefit News article, and increase the number of people who successfully quit smoking.

Now that would show a true dedication to wellness.

6 thoughts on “If Cleveland Clinic cares about wellness, they'll hire ONLY smokers

  1. I know of a doctor who I am told commented that if a person watches the money flow, things can be understood. Bottom line is always an issue, sometimes its not the primary one.

  2. Hi Lisa Renee – you think so, really? I happen to think it’s an idea closer to actually helping people to wellness while still being able to hire competent folks. It’s absurd to think that only the best candidates don’t smoke – I mean, that’s a terribly stereotypical statement, subtle or not, that I hear from the Clinic’s position.

  3. Oh – and let me add: I’d like to learn about how much healthier did the employment place become, how did the bottom line manage and how’s HR see the change?

  4. Jeff – I completely agree. I think the Clinic has gone too far. I’d like to read about the other employers that have done it though and learn more about the legal challenges’ history.

  5. It would be interesting to see if the Clinic would respond to that idea. It’s a good suggestion.:-)

  6. Shalom Jill,I know that the Clinic is not the first to impose this kind of rule, but it still concerns me.At what point does a business have to stop regulating the legal activities of its employees when they’re off the clock?At what point will an employer tell its employees they can’t go skiing because of the elevated health risk?At what point will getting a speeding ticket be grounds for dismissal because driving fast is a health risk?At what point will every aspect of our lives be controlled by the insurance companies?B’shalom,Jeff

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